Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar

27Oct/131

40 garlic chicken

I've got a chicken in the crockpot, it's been going for a couple of hours, still needs a couple. For the first time I am trying it without adding a lot of liquid to it. My friend Mari is the one who told me that I could do a whole chicken in the crockpot. We just didn't use one when I was a kid. But a few years ago, just after she'd told me about cooking a whole chicken in one I was at Meijer and they had this crockpot on sale for $10 and whole chickens were on sale that week too! Kismet!

Anyhow, whenever I make chicken in the crockpot, I will throw in a few cloves of sliced garlic. We love garlic around here! Today, I was reminded of the first time I made "garlic chicken".

I was either 18 or 19. Mom and Dad hadn't been split up for too long, so I hadn't been the chief cook for very long. I was still feeling my way through things and learning. Heck, I'm STILL learning, I always will be. I like learning new stuff, especially about food.

It was Christmas day and it had snowed something like 12 inches overnight. The roads were a nightmare. So, instead of making the traditional trip to my Gran's house (90 minutes each way over very curvy mountain roads) I decided to stay home. This was an unheard of luxury for me. It might have been the very first time I'd ever missed Christmas with the whole famn-damily.

I looked through the cookbook for something that I could do with a couple of chicken breasts for dinner since I had a bag full in the freezer. I found a recipe for something along the lines of "40 garlic chicken". In those days I had not yet discovered fresh garlic. The only garlic I'd ever used was the dried/powdered kind. You see where this is going, don't you?

I read on the bottle that blah blah teaspoons equals a clove of garlic. I used enough of the dried crap to be 40 cloves worth and covered the chicken with it and put in the oven. I have to say, that was pretty gross. We didn't eat very much of it, that's for sure. *laughs*

I've come pretty far since then. Now I'm almost never without a bulb or three of fresh garlic in the house and I only use powdered garlic when I'm making a seasoned flour for coating something. I don't even keep the pre-chopped stuff in the fridge anymore. (it has a slightly pickled flavor that I don't care for)

My chicken smells great, I am looking forward to it being done.

21Aug/131

comfort food

Often, when I have an awful, no good, terribly bad day I want comfort food. For me that means snooty cheeses. Sometimes with a little fruit on the side, sometimes not. If I'd remembered that I had grapes in the fridge last night I totally would have eaten those, but I forgot.

Our Kroger is in the midst of expanding into a Super-Mega-Kroger that can be seen from space. They've finished the first section of the renovations and have added a Murray's cheese shop. Last night, I finally gave them a proper perusal instead of just glancing as I walked past.

The first thing I found that caught my eye was a Fromager d'Affinois. While I was reading the sign, the fromagiere (ok, I might have made that word up, like a sommelier but for cheese) offered to give me a sample. It was a Prima Donna gouda with a tiny bit of strawberry basil jelly. I was immediately in love!

Prima Donna gouda is drier and sharper than a regular gouda. It's reminiscent of a parmesan, only not quite that sharp. I got a wedge of that and a wedge of the fromager d'Affinois and a jar of that strawberry basil jelly and headed home.

I think that a good cheese plate will always have three cheeses. Any more and you start getting confused, any less and you don't have enough variety. Each cheese should be of a different type, too. One needs to be creamy, one stinky, and one somewhere in the middle. So, I dug in the bottom of the fridge and found a chunk of stilton that had been there for at least a year. No worries, it was still vacuum packed, so it hadn't even molded. Well, it had no more mold than stilton usually does. I added these rosemary crackers from Kroger that I've been grooving on for quite a while.

Lo' back in the stone ages, when I was but a girl, I loved a TV show called Twin Peaks. If you haven't seen it, check it out. In one of the very first episodes, Jerry (who has been overseas) introduces his brother Ben to a butter and brie sandwich on a baguette. It sounded so good at the time, that I just had to try it. I'd never even had brie at that point. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever put in my plebeian mouth. I still love that combination and it's another of my comfort foods.

Fromager d'Affinois is like butter and brie already mixed together. It's creamy and mild and buttery and scrumptious. It is absolutely wonderful. This will definitely become one of my favorite cheeses, and I do lurves me some cheese.

After partaking of my cheese plate and a couple of cans of the "house wine" (otherwise known as Pepsi for me or Mountain Dew for Sparks) I felt a lot less frazzled. I went to bed and read for the next few hours until it was time for sleep. A very relaxing evening indeed!

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17Aug/130

constant craving

I find myself craving Mexican food very often. Sometimes though, I really just want margaritas, the food is secondary. Yesterday was one of those cases. I had talked to the boyfriend about going out for tacos and when he asked me why I wanted to go I had to admit that I really just wanted a margarita. So, we decided to cook at home.

I love pinterest, especially since I have it on my phone. I can pin two or three recipes and pull them up on my phone much more quickly than if I'd had to bookmark or remember all the sites. I decided that I wanted to make steak tacos with Mexican street corn and grilled pineapple.

I started with a flat iron steak. I knew I was going to make chimichurri sauce to go with, so I wanted something that would complement that. I marinated the steak in lime juice, garlic, onion, salt, olive oil, cilantro stems (they have as much flavor and save the leaves for the chimichurri) and a little vinegar. I sort of based my marinade on the carne asada recipe on this page. I let that marinate for an hour before the boyfriend threw it on the grill. I made a chimichurri sauce based on this recipe and set that to the side.

If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would ever eat mayonnaise on corn, I would have told them that they were crazy. I credit my best friend for introducing this wonderful thing to me. I found a recipe for street corn on the same page as the carne asada. I was also eyeballing the crema de chipotle recipe on that page but decided that I didn't need two sauces for my beef. Instead, I took that idea and mixed it with the street corn idea. I mixed chipotles in adobo with lime juice and mayo. It was very tasty and had a sneaky afterburn. This we not only smeared on the grilled corn, but also a little on the steak tacos.

Finally, I sliced some fresh pineapple and the boyfriend grilled that, too.

So, we had carne asada tacos with chimichurri, grilled pineapple and Mexican street corn. Also a large pitcher of margaritas. I made the margaritas from scratch, I juiced so many limes that I got a cramp in my elbow! I think I'll stick to the margarita mix in the future - we like it more.

Tonight, we're having an almost repeat of last night. This time will be chicken though. I had leftover tortillas, pineapple, chimichurri, chipotles in adobo, and corn. I'm looking forward to it after last night's raging success.

20Jun/130

A week of good eating!

I've cooked three times since Saturday and everything has turned out great! There's been a lot of happy belly rubbing in our house. On Saturday, I made chicken fajitas with Pioneer Woman's Pico de Gallo and guacamole. On Tuesday, I tried a pasta dish I found linked on Facebook and on Wednesday I made the Mexican Jambalaya my bff texted to me. I thought I'd share those recipes.

7Jun/100

another post already? are you ok?

We went to a bbq this weekend with lots of Sparks' old (and my not so old) friends. We took a bean salad as a side dish – it got rave reviews from the darling Robin. This is just something I made up once upon a time and it's always a work in progress or as Sparks calls it “a moving target” but I've got the basics down.

It all started because I needed a side dish for a Cinco de Mayo bbq. Plus I was looking for something with no mayo so it would be safe to sit outdoors all day if need be. I like pasta salads, but the pasta seems to get too mushy after sitting in the dressing for a while. I was all - “hey, I have these canned beans, wonder what I can do with them....”

I'm throwing this recipe together off the top of my head and all amounts are of course to be changed for number of people and your personal taste. This recipe makes a good sized bowl, enough for a group. Or change up the kinds of beans to fit your tastes. Someone said that garbonzo beans have a weird texture – leave them out if you don't like them, or add more if you love them. I like the contrast of texture

3 cans of black beans, rinsed
1 can garbonzo beans, rinsed
2 large jalapenos, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

That's it for the salad. Then you dress it. Sometimes I just throw on some lime juice and salt. This last time I made a honey lime vinagrette to try to counter some of the heat since the jalapenos were setting my lips on fire.

2 tbls honey
juice of 2 limes
olive oil (I dunno, enough. I put enough in to just about double the volume in the jar I was using to mix in)
salt, a couple of healthy pinches – you rinsed all the salt off the beans

shake to combine and pour some over the salad. Stir and taste, keep adding the dressing until it's enough. I used almost all of it.

A big plus to this – other than the olive oil you really don't have any fat. Or not much, there's not much in canned beans. And olive oil is supposed to be a healthy fat. So yay! It's got to be a healthy alternative to the sugar/bacon laden baked beans of my youth. (I'm not knocking those, I like those too, I just like these better.)

29Sep/090

you put WHAT in the soup?

I am probably the only person I know who will make soup with filet mignon.

Several months ago, I bought a whole beef tenderloin. I trimmed the chain off and cut it into small bits and put it into a baggie in the freezer. I also cut several small steaks and put them in the freezer.

Flash forward to last week. Mum and I went to Malone's for lunch and I had their steak and potato soup. I feared that it might be a cream of potato soup with steak bits in it. Nope, it was just what I was hoping for - a beef base with steak pieces and cubes of potato. Yummy, but I can do better.

Today, I called and asked the boyfriend to dig out that baggie of steak bits for me - not thinking that when frozen, gobs of meat all look rather similar. He put down the bits and a couple of small steaks too. That's ok, it'll all go in the pot!

I called pop and asked him if he'd come over and help me install a peephole in my front door, I bribed him with promises of dinner. Luckily, it turned out well. As usual, my cooking is all method and no recipe. I'll make a great grandma someday. ("I dunno, honey, a little of this and a little of that.")

I cut the meat into bite sized pieces and dropped it into a hot soup pot with a little olive oil. While it was browning a bit I chopped 1 onion and 3 cloves of garlic and added them. Then I cubed 2 baking potatoes into small pieces and added that. Dumped in a 32 oz carton of beef broth and then decided that wasn't enough liquid. I dropped in two beef bouillion cubes and two cups of water, whatever worchestershire was left in the fridge (maybe a tablespoon) a little merlot steak sauce (maybe another tablespoon), a couple healthy pinches of salt and a palmful of montreal steak seasoning. Then I cranked the heat and put a lid on it, letting it boil happily while dad and I worked on the door. A half hour or so later it was done - the steak was tender and so were the potatoes. We dished it up and had a little toast with garlic butter on the side.

TASTY!

And plenty left for lunch tomorrow! Super yay!

23Jul/090

If I’d known you were coming…

For the last few weeks, Tastespotting has been filled with Rainbow Cakes (google them, you'll find a lot of images with great explanations). The colors call to me. I wanted to make my own, especially when I saw someone else make them into cupcakes. Besides, I needed to test out my oven, y'know.

I mixed up an ordinary cake mix. As someone else said, Betty Crocker's been doing it for many more years than me, she knows what she's doing. In this case it was Pillsbury, because they were cheapest. Just a plain white cake mix, done up per package directions.

I split the batter into six ramekins and played around with the food coloring a bit. I went too dark with my purple, it wound up more brown, but it was rather grey and adding more red just made it more brown. I gave up.

You can see there that I haven't even finished taking all the tools out of the kitchen, there's a level on the counter still!

I spooned a little of each batter into paper lined muffin cups, only making 12. I know, this mix should make 24, but I wanted big cupcakes and I only have one muffin pan. If you have more patience than me, you would carefully add the batter to the center and let it spread outward or whatever. I am more slapdash than that. I just randomly blooped it in.

Baked them (at the top end of the baking time since they're super sized) and they came out like this:

You know I couldn't wait for them to cool off before slicing into one.

*squeee* I'll top them with just some cool whip later, because that's what I wanted on them.

It's a plain white cake, it tastes like a plain white cake. It's just more fun.

21Apr/090

Bread pudding for Daddy

My poppakins, he lurves the bread pudding. I lurves to experiment in the kitchen. I had a half loaf of challah and a desire to be nice to the daddoo, so it was time to embark upon an adventure. Paula Dean would have spit it out with a patoo, not enough butter or sugar. I thought it was PERFECT. Both the pudding and the sauce were combinations of various recipes I found online.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Rip leftover bread into small pieces, it should be enough bread to fill an 8x8 dish.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm 2 cups of whole milk (with a little cream mixed in, I ran out of milk) with a half stick of salted butter. Just warm it until the butter melts.

In a bowl, whisk 3 eggs with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Slowly temper in the milk/butter mixture. Then stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the bread and mix it together. Then let it sit for 5 minutes to soak in. Stir it again and smooth it off. Place this pan into a larger one and fill halfway with hotwater. Bake for 45-50 minutes. It shouldn't be too dry, but shouldn't be jiggly either. My oven runs a bit slow, you might want to cut the time a bit.

When the pudding comes out of the oven, start the sauce. Over medium heat, melt 2 T butter and stir in 1/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup light corn syrup. Let it boil for 1 minute then stir in 1/4 cup bourbon. Most folks will tell you to remove it from the heat before putting in the bourbon, but I never do and thusfar have not set myself on fire. Let's just say "do as I say, not as I do" like my mama would. Let it bubble for a minute or so, and remove from heat. Dish up the pudding and drizzle the sauce over the top. How much is up to you.

Way tasty - and this probably made 8 big servings. Or 4 for Dad.

14Feb/090

Taunting you with pictures!

Well now kiddies, it's Valentine's Day. The last time that Sparks and I tried to go to dinner on Vday evening, we wound up getting mad because we couldn't find a table anywhere. So, instead, we went out last night and stayed in tonight. I cooked dinner for him.

I feel like I did pretty well - it was right tasty start to finish.

Dinner was my infamous Shrimp 'n' Not Grits. This recipe came about after the Spoiled White Girl made us Shrimp and Grits and the boyfriend refused to eat the grits. Hates them, he does - it's a texture thing. So, I set forth to adapt this recipe to suit him, it's better than the original, I think. Plus, it's rather forgiving. Put things in the pan out of order, add a little more or less of things, it's all ok. Just don't salt the risotto before adding the cheeses - makes it too salty.

I decided that it needed a side dish - so I dressed up some canned green beans with a little red pepper and toasted garlic. I also pulled garlic bread out of the freezer.

Remember kiddies, don't fear the garlic for Valentine's Day. As Rachel Ray says, "two garlics cancel each other out." As long as you both eat it, it doesn't matter.

For dessert, I turned to the Pioneer Woman. I made her Pots de Creme.

On the side there is a chocolate covered strawberry from Old Kentucky Chocolates. Completely unnecessary. The dessert was wonderful without it. This dessert will join my regular arsenal for dinner parties - super simple and amazingly decadent. Plus, the standard recipe made six generous servings. Not those restaurant sized portions where you are wondering if your significant other will be aghast if you put your face in the container, instead it was just enough. I could have even stopped a bit or two before the end. Not that I did! The whipped cream is needed, it helps to cut the richness of chocolate.

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16Oct/080

Comfort that doesn’t come from a can

All week long, I've been feeling under the weather. I think I've got some sort of stomach bug. Either that or a combo of GERD, PMS, and depression. It doesn't matter which, I've been feeling crappy and food has not been my friend.

Tonight, I was craving beans. A big hot bowl of pinto bean soup with corn bread. However, that also wasn't quite what I wanted either. But something warm and cozy, like a blanket for my insides. I dug around my pantry and found a bad of "harvest soup" mix that I'd picked up at the Amish market a year or so ago. It's a mixture of various colored lentils and split peas with wild rice.

I put that into my biggest pot with some water and chicken broth. I peeled several cloves of garlic and dropped them in whole and let the whole thing simmer for a bit, throwing in a few herbs and a healthy bit of salt. It tasted ok as it was, but it needed something more. It needed carrots.

So, I got dressed and trudged over to the Kroger. I picked up 3 carrots, 1 parsnip, 1 teeny turnip, 1 large potato and an onion. Brought that home and chopped it into the soup then back to ransacking the pantry for tomatoes. For some reason I thought I had a zillion cans of tomatoes, I found one. And one can of tomato sauce. Put both of those in the soup with a bit more chicken broth and let it cook until the veggies were tender.

I wound up with a lovely root vegetable stew. I ladled it into a bowl and found that it still needed something....

I put a small dollop of leftover garlic yogurt sauce in the center with some parsley. So good I had to eat three bowls!

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